- An interior designer told me how to make my one-bedroom apartment in NYC better fit three people.
- She said regular-sized furniture looks better than smaller pieces in a tiny space.
- She suggested I divide my living room into more spaces and get more pieces with storage.
In 2019, after spending two years living in new cities every month, my husband and I decided to sublet a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.
We had only planned to stay for six months, so we simply furnished it with spare pieces from my husband’s parent’s basement to make the space livable for two adults. We ended up staying longer than we planned and our apartment eventually had to become both of our work-from-home offices, home to our new puppy, and our gym.
Now, we’re months away from adding a newborn to our family. Unsure of how we’ll be able to fit so many different aspects of our life and another person into such a tight space, I reached out to Kristy DeGina, an interior designer who specializes in small-space living.
Here’s what DeGina suggested I do to make my small apartment feel bigger and more suitable for two adults, a dog, and a baby.
She said we should divide our main living area into ‘mini rooms’
When you walk into my apartment, you see one long rectangle where we have our eating area, living room, my husband’s office, and our workout space.
I’ve struggled to figure out how to make one space that’s used for so many things look presentable while also being functional.
DeGina suggested I split the area into “mini-rooms” to better utilize and define the space. A simple way to do that is to add a rug in the middle of the living room under the couch.
“Not only is adding a rug helpful for a baby when they start to crawl, but it will make the space feel more cozy and comfortable,” she said. “Plus, it will define specific areas in this one room so it’s clear where your workspace is versus where your living room area is.”
DeGina said I can get any rug I want, but suggested I avoid a light color that will show dirt and stains easily because I have a baby on the way and a dog.
It’s also good to take inventory on furniture and be open to repositioning it
She also suggested we take inventory of the furniture we already have before bringing in any new pieces. We should decide what we can get rid of to make room for baby items and reposition the rest.
In our main living area, I was planning to give away our workout equipment and kitchen table. In our bedroom, we’re going to get rid of the desk and bench.
From there, DeGina and I discussed items I was planning to purchase for when the baby is born, including a bassinet, changing table with a dresser, and reclining chair.
Based on that information, she mapped out how I could neatly incorporate it all.
To better define the living space in our main room, she suggested pushing the couch, media console, and TV closer to the window. This would allow space for a reclining chair and a bassinet if I decided to keep it in that space.
Since we’re getting rid of our dining table, DeGina suggested we just add a few bar stools to our kitchen counter. She said we can put a larger desk where the kitchen table was so my husband and I have a space to work from.
We need to invest in items that have storage
Since our space is used for so many different purposes and it’s about to also turn into a nursery for the baby, DeGina said it’s important to have furniture that can also double as storage.
She recommended we replace is our small media cabinet with a larger one with more storage. We can then use the cabinet to store dog and baby toys, small workout equipment (like weights and bands), and miscellaneous household items.
She also suggested we get side tables for next to our couch, storage ottomans, or a coffee table that opens up and allows you to place items inside.
When it came to our bedroom, she mentioned that we could add storage underneath our bed using plastic bins.
If we have more money in our budget, we can instead invest in a bed frame with drawers on the bottom to store linens, baby items, and even off-season clothing.
Additionally, after we remove the bench and desk from our bedroom, we can fit an extra dresser (with a changing table on top of it) for the baby’s clothing, toys, diapers, and other essentials.
She said it’s OK to keep our walls bare
When we first moved into this apartment, we didn’t have a plan to design and style the place. We just wanted to focus on making it functional so, over the years, we’ve left the walls pretty bare.
I asked DeGina if there are any opportunities to add storage or style by adding anything to the walls.
She mentioned that we could add floating shelves above the sofa, but it would be more for decorative purposes. Storing too many items on them could be impractical or cause visual clutter.
Either way, she reminded me, I shouldn’t hang anything above the bassinet or baby’s changing area for safety reasons.
If we did want to use decor to upgrade the space, she said, we could add a large floor mirror or two side-by-side ones behind the sofa to make the room look bigger.
I also shouldn’t be scared to buy regular-sized furniture
Lastly, DeGina told me to avoid buying small pieces of furniture, a common mistake people make when decorating tiny spaces.
“When you have a small space, sometimes smaller pieces can diminish the size of the space even more,” she said.
In my living room, she noticed I have a small mirror, desk, and media cabinet. If I replace that furniture, she said, I should shop as though I was styling an average-sized living room, which will make the area feel bigger.
Overall, I got a lot of great ideas for optimizing my space
Ultimately, I get why it can be helpful to work with an interior designer to map out a space.
It’s part of their job to make spaces work for different people by understanding their priorities, floor plan, and the items they want to make sure fit in the space.
So many of DeGina’s suggestions are things I’d never have thought of on my own, even though I spend so much time in my apartment.
I look forward to moving furniture around, investing in a few new pieces, and adding more storage solutions.